What Do Great Sales and The First Day of School Have in Common?

In what can be described as turnabout being fair play, we fully adopted the client role when we went looking for a web marketing agency for our own company.  Instead of being the objective third-party measurement tool in the sales process, we actually needed a sales/marketing company, and we needed a good one. 

Throughout the process that followed, we were bluntly reminded about what separates good sales engagement from, well, the proposal that gets put in the trash can.  It became very clear that it is not too hard to stand out from your competitors.

One company, the one we hired, beat the others hands down in several key areas.


To no fault of their own, the company we chose missed the initial deadline to be considered.  They learned about our project via social networking a day after we closed the initial review process. They asked to be considered, and we said no, that we already had our short list. Case closed?  Not exactly.

Their response was that they were disappointed, but that if someone on the short list did not measure up, they would sincerely appreciate a shot. Ironically, the most promising entry on the short-listed companies missed the next deadline, so voila, they had a slot. The other company apologized and asked for an extension and were denied the opportunity.


In the project scope we sent out, we detailed our needs as precisely as possible. In this scope, we offered the availability of our senior team to answer any questions before a proposal was submitted. Only two of the six short-listed companies took that opportunity.  The one difference being that the company we chose used the phone to talk to us, while another emailed their questions.


We looked at six proposals and four demonstrations. The partner we chose was the only one to talk about a subject the others never even broached. Drum roll, please…Our competitors. Other references to the items touched on during the discovery call were reference aplenty. They really did their homework, and in the end, put on a performance that demonstrated preparation, capability, and execution.  We were able to visualize how they would perform for us.

It reminded us that standing out amongst your competition isn’t fancy branding or websites, it’s first about shoe leather, hustling for a shot.  It’s then about probing, asking questions, good ones, questions that help you get to the core of what the customer needs.  We were shocked that only two companies took the opportunity to get an audience with the decision maker. This is the perhaps the most tedious and costly task of all in sales.  Finally, it was about solidly conveying to the prospective client (us) that they really, truly wanted to help us. That created excitement and optimism, enough so that we were happy to proceed above the targeted budget.

None of these three items can be purchased in a fancy sales seminar. These are the basics that have been around forever, skills taught to most of us by our parents.  Raising your hand, asking questions and sitting up straight, served as great advice back when we were starting first grade as well as it serves us as sales professionals.

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